Let’s Celebrate Freedom

As much of the United States human population marks July 4th as a day to celebrate, it is a good time to reflect upon what is independence and what is freedom. Though freedom by definition implies being able to do something without outside control, it is often seen as an achievement. For my dog partner, that would be a celebration free of fireworks. For me, that would be all celebrations to be free of balloon releases. For the Fox River’s mussels and fish, it would be the ability of the Fox River to flow freely by being freed of its remaining dams.

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Nature’s Relationships

In natural communities, being independent is non-existent.  The science of ecology is the study of the interrelationships between biotic/living components (like plants and animals) and abiotic/non-living components (like temperature and nutrient levels). In addition are the relationships between plants and animals. The oak tree is a leader in supporting over 2300 animal species. Some relationships are very specific, like the monarch butterfly and its host plant the milkweed family. Many of the mussel species in the Fox River (and its streams) have a particular species of fish as a host. When that fish loses its freedom by a dam obstruction, the mussel loses its opportunity for upstream dispersal and repopulation.

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Monarch caterpillar

Human Relationships

In human communities, being independent is rarely part of the system. Our past of heavy manufacturing relied upon exploiting natural resources for material supply, utilizing the surrounding environment for waste disposal, and having abundant consumers for financing the operation. Our current retail-dominated consumer system is showing its heavy dependence upon others, with supply chain issues and high fuel price disruptions. But it is our interest and ability to work together that keeps communities strong. Humanitarian efforts through non-profits and governmental services are essential in supporting us as a whole.

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Andrea Burns in Elgin

Your Vote Counts

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The United States achieved freedom from British control with the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 and the Constitution of the United States of America provided a democratic system for governing ourselves. Very basically, it is the people (voters) who select representatives (local to federal) who develop policies that impact the whole. If you recently voted, you probably were not fully aware of every candidate’s true background. Much is invested in negative advertising that offers misinformation with few controls. A new organization, Ballot Ready offers us an impartial and easy education tool to individually prepare us. Consider using it, because it is our individual responsibility in a democracy to make well informed selections.

Educating Your Representative

Friends of the Fox River (FOTFR) works with our legislatures to be well informed on the issues. Beyond voting is lobbying with many groups that employ paid lobbyists to influence policy. Our partner, the Illinois Sierra Club has a strong lobby team. Please consider joining them to help raise our voices regarding legislation which affects our watershed. In many cases, it is the public voice that significantly influences our legislator’s decisions on many different issues that they are faced with every day they are in session. Educate yourself and communicate with your elected officials; they are there to represent you. Ballot Ready can provide you with their names and contact information.

100% Voting Record

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FOTFR serves as a voice for the Fox River Watershed and its inhabitants. As a 501c3 non-profit, FOTFR cannot endorse candidates directly, but we can empower the public by educating them on issues. The Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) offers an annual Environmental Scorecard to help voters identify strong supporters and a complete explanation of the criteria can be found on their website.

The Illinois portion of our watershed has 20 State Representatives. 9 received an impressive 100% from the IEC: Barb Hernandez, Maura Hirschauer, Stephanie Kifowit, Joyce Mason, Anna Moeller, Michelle Mussman, Suzanne Ness, Janet Yang Rohr, and Mark Walker. Of our 13 State Senators, 5 also received the commendable IEC 100% rating.: Melinda Bush, Cristina Castro, Laura Ellman, Ann Gillespie, Karina Villa.

 See if you can notice any commonality in the list of names. I presented my observation to Representative Hirschauer, and she responded with, “Moms vote for Mom” (Mother Earth).

Free Our Fox

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Drone shot of Carpentersville Dam

Soon we are going to celebrate a new form of freedom with the removal of the Carpentersville Dam this fall. Thanks go to our local representatives at the Kane County Forest Preserve District who highly value ecosystem restoration. This removal will return a 15,000 year-old habitat that has been missing for 150 years. Additionally, a formerly stalled Army Corps of Engineers study recently received a $250,000 reboot thanks to our U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. This study is mostly completed and is expected to lead the way for another ten Fox River dams to be removed. FOTFR is actively working to educate watershed residents and our local representatives about the facts associated with dam removal. It is the responsibility of the Fox River voters to support decisions regarding each town’s river restoration projects, so to learn more, visit FOTFR’s Dam Questions page. To invite a FOTFR representative to address a group about river restoration contact us at: info@friendsofthefoxriver.org

Let’s Celebrate Freedom

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Let’s Celebrate Freedom by Art Malm

With the support of the study results, funding from federal and state sources, encouragement from local voters (YOU), and the let’s free the Fox decisions from city councils, we will soon restore important and lost habitat for mussels and fish. That is certainly a freedom worth celebrating.

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